No surprises in Sage’s big bets as it plays catch-up

Published on the 06/03/2017 | Written by Anthony Caruana


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Pitch rests on AI and the cloud…

That was the theme running through the opening keynote of the business software provider as it kicked off its recent two-day Summit Tour partner and user conference in Melbourne.

Alan Laing, Sage partners and alliances EVP, said the ‘rapidly changing world’ offers significant opportunities, and that after spending much of 2016 focused on innovation in products – something the UK-headquartered company was compelled to do in the face of heightened competition from cloud competitors – he said the company is well placed for further growth.

He said among the goals for Sage is to reduce the time spent on administrative tasks spent by business owners to zero by 2020 by using bots, artificial intelligence, and other automation tools. For example, the company recently announced the integration of its AI chat-bot Pegg in Sage One, its cloud-based application.

Pegg works with popular chat apps Slack and Facebook Messenger so users can track expenses and manage finances through these messaging apps. Sage has said the aim is not for Pegg to pretend to be human, but to add value.

A significant part of Sage’s growth strategy, said Laing, is being built around partnerships with other major software partners. Sage has forged alliances with companies such as Slack, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Salesforce, Google, American Express, and PwC.

“We’ve done that to help us enhance our products and platforms to give our customers choice,” said Laing.

The company said it is investing in building better user experience through the hiring of a new vice president with a specific responsibility for making applications mobile friendly, embracing the cloud, and committing to not shutting down legacy applications. These are signs, said Laing, of the company’s commitment to its existing customers and the future.

Fabiola Stein VP product management, has a strong focus on mobile and cloud based products that will complement and expand the existing Sage product portfolio. “We know that the question of cloud is no longer up for debate,” said Stein. “The question is now when the switch will happen.”

Sage, regarded as somewhat conservative in its approach and late to the cloud/mobile game, first signalled its intent to ‘modernise’ in late 2015. And at this Australian gathering, Stein said there are three key areas for product development investment at Sage, said Stein. All are cloud-based offerings.

Sage One is pitched at startups. Sage Live is for ‘scale-ups’ with Sage X3 focussed on enterprises. All are cloud-based, mobile-ready and offer rapid access to business data; given the breadth of the market it addresses, the competition it faces is equally broad, from Xero at the one end, to, Oracle and SAP on the other.

Development of these platforms will follow what Stein described as an “aggressive roadmap” founded on leveraging the company’s existing assets, taking advantage of better product delivery through an enhanced user experience. There was even a claim that Sage, late as it might be, will leapfrog competitors.

Sage Live is built on Salesforce’s force.com platform and therefore doesn’t share a code base with X3. Live, said Sage, was a response to the market’s appetite for innovative products and an acknowledgement that the company’s open API strategy is being demanded by customers.

And what of the older Sage 300 product? It, added Laing, will still be developed and enhanced and there won’t be forced migrations to newer products.

 

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